The CBI on Tuesday searched 14 places across the country including the residence of Karti Chidambaram in connection with alleged criminal misconduct in grant of Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval to foreign investments received by INX Media Pvt Ltd formerly owned by Peter and Indrani Mukerjea. According to the CBI FIR, the main charges against Karti Chidambaram and his firm Chess Management Services (P) Ltd are —
1) INX entered into a criminal conspiracy with Karti Chidambaram to amicably settle a case of violation of foreign investment norms by the company in 2007. The media firm had brought in Rs 305 crore through foreign investment even as the FIPB had approved foreign inflow of only Rs 4.62 crore. The CBI has alleged that Karti was engaged by the firm “by virtue of his relationship with the then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram”.
2) The CBI has alleged that Karti Chidambaram exercised influence over certain FIPB officials and the department instead of investigating the case, extended undue favours to the media firm by asking it to apply for fresh FIPB approval on the downstream investment of Rs 305 crore in violation of norms. Subsequently, INX Media was granted FIPB permission for the investment which had already come into the firm.
3) The CBI has alleged that Karti Chidamabaram received Rs 10 lakh from INX Media for “management consultancy charges” through Advantage Strategic Consulting (P) Ltd, a firm which was indirectly controlled by Chidamabaram. This according to CBI was done to “conceal the identity” of Chidambaram.
4) Apart from this, the CBI has alleged that invoices of at least Rs 3.5 crore were raised in favour of INX Group in the name of companies where Chidambaram has direct and indirect interests.
In response to the raids, P Chidambaram issued a statement that read:
“FIPB approval is granted in hundreds of cases. The five Secretaries who constitute the FIPB, the officials of the FIPB Secretariat and the competent authority in each case are the public officials. There is no allegation against any of them. There is no allegation against me.
Every case was processed according to law and approval was granted or refused in accordance with the recommendations of the FIPB consisting of five Secretaries of the Government of India.
The government, using the CBI and other agencies, is targeting my son and his friends. The government’s aim is to silence my voice and stop me from writing, as it has tried to do in the cases of leaders of Opposition parties, journalists, columnists, NGOs, and civil society organisations. All I will say is, I shall continue to speak and write.”